Back to School Guide

| August 31, 2015 | 0 Comments


As the leaves change from green to yellow to red, we begin to prepare our hearts and minds for the changing of the seasons. There is no bigger change for so many families than the transition from August to September, from summer to fall, from vacation to back to school! This month’s compass is about helping your family transition back from the breeziness of summer vacation to the structured routines of school.

1. Get back into the routine BEFORE the first day:

Unless you want to deal with cranky children dragging their feet around the place, you will need to help them adjust to an earlier bed time. Starting at least a few days (up to a week) before the first day of school, start adjusting bed time in 30 minute increments back to your child’s normal time. So if your child has become accustomed to a 11pm bed time over the summer, start with 10:30 for a day or two and work down to their normal bedtime. Adjusting bedtime slowly helps to ease the physical and emotional aspects of going back to school. Try the same strategy to help your children adjust to waking up earlier in the morning.

2. Create a Countdown Calendar:

For an older child or teenager you can mark the day on an actual calendar and have your child cross off each day leading up to it. For younger children, try stapling a bunch of numbered sheets of paper together, starting with 1 on the bottom and the highest number of days left on the top. Have your child tear off the top paper every day and you can enthusiastically announce “We have 5 more days until the first of school. Woohoo!!” *beware of eye rolling children*

3. Practice makes perfect:

You wouldn’t want your child to get up in front of his or her class an give a presentation without practicing. For kids starting a new school you can help ease anxiety with practice runs. Drive to the school, practice walking up the steps and seeing the doors. Or if your child takes the bus, practice going to the bus stop. Some schools will do orientations or will allow you to arrange visits to see classrooms. You can even start practicing the morning routine, from brushing teeth to packing a lunch. The more your child practices, the more comfortable they will feel on the first day.

4. Let your children have some control:

For many children, there is a sense of loss associated with returning to school – loss of freedom, loss of time with family or friends. One way to help ease this sense of loss is to hand over the reigns in preparing for back to school – let your child or teenager pick out their own school supplies and clothing (within reason of course). The older your child the more independence they can handle. This can foster a sense of confidence and responsibility. Remember that for younger children forced choice approach might be best: Do you want to wear these pants or these jeans on your first day?

5. Set aside space to express feelings:

Talking about how they feel helps to prepare kids emotionally for the upcoming change. As a parent you can help by reflecting their feelings (e.g. “wow, I understand you are nervous about starting a new grade”). You can also help your children experience the full range of their emotions by guiding them to verbalize both negative and positive feelings. Being excited at seeing friends and starting fresh are just as important as being scared. If your child is stuck on the negative, help them to remember a time when they were nervous about something and everything turned out okay. For children, who have difficulty expressing themselves, have them draw, paint, sculpt or sing a song about what might be going on inside.

6. Create a “change ritual” or ceremony:

Help your family mark the changing of seasons and start of the new school year with a fun ceremony. Maybe a whole day to dig into your closet and donate old clothes or toys to make room for new items. Or maybe some special time as a family to “just be” with each other. Regardless, a ceremony can help to prepare you and your children for upcoming transitions.

These are just a few suggestions. We value all your wisdom as a parent; if you have any great ideas or tips to help ease the transition back to school, please leave us a comment!

Jasmine Narayan, Psy.D

Dr. Narayan is a Licensed Psychologist and Co-Founder of Family Guiding. She specializes in child and adolescent psychotherapy, specifically issues related to aggressive/impulsive behavior, emotional regulation, ADHD, depression, anxiety and trauma. Dr. Narayan works closely with families to improve effective communication, build healthy connections and increase positive interactions. She draws on positive parenting techniques, parent-child interaction therapy, mindfulness and relaxation, and evidence-based interventions to support clients in their growth. Dr. Narayan believes that creativity is critical to a child’s growth, and uses various art therapy techniques to not only engage the child, but help grow the parent-child bond. When working with clients, the emphasis is on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing interaction patterns. Her experience, support and guidance can help parents reduce problematic behaviors and increase loving, peaceful and authentic connections with their children.

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Tags: back to reality, back to school, creating routines, school, seasonal, transitions

Category: Compass, Seasonal

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